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Scrapping ALAC and engaging users directly would be the best outreach

  • To: gnso-global-outreach@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: Scrapping ALAC and engaging users directly would be the best outreach
  • From: Susannah <thecommunity@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 7 Apr 2011 23:13:58 +0100

Dear ICANN readers,

Global outreach is perfectly rational, but the most clear and persuasive
logic over a decade has been to engage individual users as individuals,
allowing for a self-determining At Large with individual users afforded the
power to bypass structures that get in the way, including ALAC itself, and
to organise themselves and choose their own representatives.

Meanwhile ALAC is sustained by ICANN, lost in a decade of self-definition,
RALOs, working groups, prevarications, reviews, consultations, and proposals
about its future - while remaining lifeless, moribund, far-removed from a
next generation of individual users who could offer so much vibrancy and

The Report on ALAC's future will, technically, be relevant to global
outreach... but truly ALAC and ICANN have already taken decisions on public
participation in ICANN's processes, which would be a key to true global

A Review in June 2009 set its first goal as determining: whether ALAC has a
continuing purpose in the ICANN structure.

Of course, there have always been two narratives about ALAC's purpose in the
ICANN structure.

Narrative A says that ALAC is designed to be "the primary organisational
home for individual internet users to engage in ICANN processes."

That of course is rhetoric and a front.

Narrative B sees ALAC's purpose (and it has always been the case - it was
why ICANN invented ALAC) to contain and control the participation of
individual internet users, and to keep large-scale and democratically driven
user participation at arms length, through a semblance of representation
which is however, in practice, a 'company union' structured, funded and
staff-supported by ICANN itself, and afforded minimal executive engagement,
compared to the vast majority-status of the individual user constituency.

Since this is the primary goal of the Improvements Project Plan - fulfilling
the purposes for which this moribund structure was set up - any public
comment is likely to be filtered through the layers and layers of byzantine
ICANN structures, keeping true public participation far away off, as it has
been since the coup that reversed the democratic At Large elections of the
year 2000.

The second goal that the Review of June 2009 cited was whether any change in
ALAC structure was desirable to improve its effectiveness.

Since ALAC and its RALOs have been highly effective in locking the main
group of users - individuals - out of the corridors of its own power, which
are sub-corridors of ICANN's power... little change except in presentation
is really sought by the ICANN Board. Allowing a single ALAC rep on the Board
would be done as a presentational sop, and what do you get for that anyway?
Has the public chosen their spokesperson? Is that ALAC rep actually a rep in
any way of who the internet users might or might not want?

If REAL change was sought, to make the At-Large effective, the first thing
that would be accomplished would be the abolition of ALAC.

As Karl Auerbach has written: "The current ALAC was a step backwards from
the system that it replaced" which was "a vibrant system of debate and
information exchange." Furthermore, ALAC has proven far more expensive than
any elective system that it replaced, though at the time, cost was cited as
an excuse.

What we're left with is largely an ICANN dependency. Its structures and
layers of approach to the actual places of power and decision-making act as
a barrier between ICANN and individual users. Its discussion lists are
moribund and consist of the same few voices, a tiny fraction of the millions
of users, and a shadow of the emerging At Large of 2000.

People don't see the value of ALAC participation, because they see it
exactly for what it is - a company structure designed to thwart real and
democratic engagement and self-determination based on individual users with
direct and equal access to participation in At Large initiatives. Everything
is kept at arms' length.

So ALAC is left as a non-elected, non-representative rump on the margins of
ICANN, which has always been more responsive to industry insiders.

"Public Discussion Periods" come and go after reports. ALAC may be
fine-tuned but it is there to serve a purpose... which is NOT the
large-scale engagement of the internet public.

Meanwhile, the true way to launch outreach remains the same as it has always
been. Use media, including social media, and the burgeoning Facebook and
YouTube, to draw in the public, one user, one vote, and to create direct
involvement, with direct elections, and forums that are moderated by peer
review, because - truly - there was no good reason why the previous
democratic attempt needed to be aborted.

It was an issue of control. Accountability to the internet public - in the
form of its greatest constituency, the individual users - was not wanted.

In all the years since the ICANN coup against democracy... nothing has

The fact still remains, that the Internet is essentially the right and
property of the human race, not industry insiders. And the largest
representative group on the ICANN board should be individual users. It's
maths and it's justice and it's democracy. 10,000 users could easily be
engaged via Facebook. Discussions and inputs and ideas and ideals could
flow. Elections would raise up individuals accountable to other users, not
just a NomCom or ICANN clique. There is nothing at all, beside political
will, to stop the creation of the world's own vibrant, passionate, lively
overseers of the world's own priceless internet.

What's more it could work - to provide a dynamic, participatory At Large,
full of input and ideas, instead of this moribund invention of ICANN, called

Now THAT would be true public outreach.


Susannah Clark

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